Monday, December 24, 2007

Bill Simmons Waxes Nostalgic

Would it hurt Bill Simmons to do a little research and not write as if he's talking off the cuff about the quarterbacks he remembers from when he was a teenager? Last week in his NFL picks column, the Sports Guy lamented the sad state of quarterback play in the NFL.

Throw in four expansion teams and the number of (Cleo) lemons has apparently tripled. Just look at the quality QBs in 1990: Marino, Kelly, Elway, Montana, Esiason, Cunningham, Simms, Everett, Aikman, Rypien, Moon, DeBerg, Gannon, Harbaugh, Kosar, Krieg, Majkowski, O'Brien, Schroeder, plus two backups (Young and Reich). Any of those guys could have won 10-plus games if they were surrounded by good players.

Well, how many QBs could you say that about now? Ten? Twelve?

Obviously there were some great QB's playing in 1990. Marino, Kelly, Elway, Montana, Aikmen and Moon are all Hall of Famers. Esiason and Simms were close to that level and Randall Cunningham was certainly playing at a Hall of Fame level in 1990. But Jay Schroeder? The magic man Don Majkowski? Ken O'Brien - I mean seriously, Ken O'Brien? Why don't you just put Tony Eason on the list and be done with it.

Before getting to the quarterbacks of today, let's actually look at who was a good quarterback in 1990. Elway, Marino, Montana, Kelly and Moon? Check. Troy Aikmen? He was in his second year on a losing Cowboy team, throwing 11 TD's and 18 INT's. Boomer? Check, although he did throw 22 INT's on the year. Cunningham? Hell yeah- for those of you who may not remember, Cunningham was basically a Michael Vick who could actually throw the ball (3,400 yards and 30 TD's passing to go along with 900 yards rushing on the year).

Phil Simms? Of course. Jim Everett? Yeah, probably an underrated passer. Mark Rypien? He had a great season the following year when he took the Redskins to the Super Bowl, but as of 1990 he had never played a full season. Steve DeBerg? He did have a good year in 1990, throwing only 4 picks and taking the Chiefs to the playoffs. Rich Gannon? It was his first year as a starter with the Vikings and he threw 16 TD's and 16 INT's. Jim Harbaugh? It was his first season as the hands down starter of the Bears and he threw 10 TD's.

The often injured Bernie Kosar suffered through one of his worst seasons in 1990, but he probably gets a pass based upon past performances. Dave Krieg? Same as Kosar- not a great year, but he was a solid QB in the 80's. Don Majkowski had a magical 1989, but, quite frankly, sucked in 1990. Ken O'Brien threw 53 TD passes from 1987-1990. Not that special. The problem is, for anyone whose ever watched football, is that we'd take someone like the Chad Pennington of today over Ken O'Brien. Jay Schroeder actually had a good season in 1990 ... but I don't know.

So basically, this puts our quality list at 12, not including Don Majkowki or Jay Schroeder, not including the young Jim Harbaugh, Rich Gannon, and Mark Rypien, but including the ugly seasons of Boomer Esiason, Dave Krieg, and Bernie Kosar.

My McBlogging friend actually got the ball rolling on this topic with an e-mail he sent me a few days ago. Here's his list of the today's quality QB's.

Brett Favre - Top 5 all-time, possibly the best all-time, on pace for 4000 Yards and 30 TDs
Tom Brady - Best QB season of all-time. Maybe.
Peyton Manning - Still Peyton Manning. Also does more for his offense (audibles, play calling) than arguably any QB, ever.
Tony Romo - A young Brett Favre. Has already eclipsed every Cowboys single season passing record and there's two games left.
Drew Brees - He's having an "off year" and he has 25 TDs and 3500 Yards
Matt Hasselbeck - Has been finally been "unleashed".
David Garrard and Jeff Garcia - Take nothing off the table as Simmons said. They'll always keep their teams in a position to win.
Carson Palmer - He's a throwback pocket passer and he's certainly having one of his worst years, still, his talent and potential surpasses a lot of QBs.
Marc Bulger - Played well when healthy. Will definitely bounce back next year.
Ben Roethlisberger - He's almost ahead of his time. Has great size, great mobility and a strong arm. Has done wonders for the Steelers.
Derek Anderson - One year wonder? I don't think so.
Jon Kitna - Say what you want about his performance but the guy inspires teammates and that counts for a lot.
Donovan McNabb - Having a down year but he can still get the job done.
Jay Cutler - Considering this is his first full season, I think he's done fine. He could definitely be great.
Matt Schaub - If healthy, he could've had a very good year. Considering the best Texan RB this year was Ron Dayne, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I don't think there's any debate about Brady, Manning, Favre, Romo, Carson Palmer, Brees, Hasselbeck, Roethlisberger, and McNabb being quality QB's. Jeff Garcia has the solid history and the solid season, while Garrard is getting it done this year. Kitna is going to pass for 4,000 yards for the second consecutive season, so he's on the list, and like a few of the guys on the '90 list, Marc Bulger gets in based on past performance. That puts us at 13 - I've left out Derek Anderson, Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub, but they'd warrant consideration. So do Eli Manning and Chad Pennington, at least if QB's like Ken O'Brien are in the 1990 conversation.

And finally, there are all the young guys- Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Alex Smith, and Brodie Croyle.

Now certainly, there aren't the number of high caliber QB's today that there were in 1990. But that's just because the league is changing and there are a larger number of young QB's. In 1990 we weren't sure that Elway, Kelly, or Moon were Hall of Famers. Today we can say the same thing about QB's like Carson Palmer, Drew Brees, and Matt Hasselbeck. Ultimately, it's just much easier to look back at the past nostalgically rather than realize that Bernie Kosar was a less mobile, weaker-armed version of Chad Pennington.


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